One of Sweden’s largest free school operators has announced it will shut down, leaving hundreds of students stranded and raising questions about far the UK should follow the country’s education model. This is from the Guardian…
JB Education, whose schools educate around 10,000 Swedish pupils, said on Thursday that it would sell 19 of its high schools and close down the remaining three. The decision came after the Danish private equity group Axcel, which bought the chain in 2008, decided it could no longer continue to cover the company’s losses.
“I’m devastated that the company I’ve managed for a short time won’t survive,” said JB Education’s chief executive, Anders Hultin. “It’s extremely regrettable that it will affect the students.”
Ibrahim Baylan, the education spokesman for Sweden’s opposition Social Democratic party, said the closures should come as a warning to the UK not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight.
“Before you do something like this you have to really really think about how you set up the system,” he said. “The system here is not working as it’s supposed to work. Nobody could foresee that so many private equity companies would be in our school system as we have today.”
Two Swedish school companies, Kunskapsskolan and Internationella Engelska Skolan, have already taken over the management of schools in the UK in anticipation of further education reforms which will allow them to make a profit. Both, like JB Education, are owned by private equity companies.
The education secretary, Michael Gove, is open-minded about allowing profit-making companies to run free schools, and the Conservatives are expected to include a proposal to allow them to do so in their 2015 election manifesto.